Fall is not only the most comfortable time of year in Iowa, but it is arguably the most beautiful. Paved multi-use trails across Iowa offer a user-friendly — and gorgeous! — way to get your 10,000 steps a day. So get ready to hit the trails this fall … you might not even notice that you’re doing something healthy for your whole body!
The Surgeon General recommends the 10,000 steps a day program to maintain a healthy weight and stay fit. While that might sound intimidating, you likely are already partway to that goal with your current daily activities. However, most people find that they can’t hit the 10,000-step target without making an “on purpose” walk part of their daily routine.
But does walking around your block sound boring? If you live in Iowa, you’re in luck—there’s a very well-developed network of paved multi-use trails crisscrossing the state that will make your walks anything but ordinary.
Multi-use trails in central Iowa
- The High Trestle Trail runs for 25 miles through Polk and Boone counties. The main attraction of this “rails to trails” project is the High Trestle Trail Bridge, an iconic, half-mile-long, 13-story-high bridge with 41 steel frames wrapping around it for an eye-popping visual effect. See Travel Iowa’s guide to the High Trestle Trail.
- The Chichaqua Valley Trail runs between Berwick and Baxter, through 26 miles of central Iowa farmland. For more information, including parking and trail access, check out Polk County’s trail guide.
- The Clive Greenbelt Trail will make you feel like you’re away from the hustle and bustle, yet restaurants and shops are easily accessible from the trail. For more information on the Clive Greenbelt trail, see TrailLink’s trail facts.
- The Neal Smith Trail was one of the first trails in the central Iowa trail network. This trail is unique because it offers a mix of terrain—woodlands, lakes, prairies, and wetlands. For those looking for a challenge, this trail also offers some hills. Read the writeup from Des Moines Outdoors for all the details.
- The Oralabor Gateway Trail runs adjacent to suburban neighborhoods and Oralabor Road for most of its 5.2-mile length. It is an easygoing trail for those just starting out on their fitness program. Read all about it at TrailLink.
- The Walnut Creek Trail is only 3.2 miles long, but on its northern end it connects to the Clive Greenbelt Trail and on its southern end, it connects to the Bill Riley Trail—which in turn is connected to Des Moines’ extensive trail network. See TrailLink’s guide to the Walnut Creek Trail.
- The Kruidenier Trail around Gray’s Lake is a 2.1-mile loop that runs along the perimeter of Gray’s Lake Park. The trail features a 1,400-foot-long, light-bedecked pedestrian bridge over the lake and jaw-dropping views of the Des Moines skyline. While relatively short itself, this trail connects with a 6-mile network of downtown Des Moines trails. The Outbound Collective tells you everything you need to know about this trail.
Trails throughout the state
Don’t live in central Iowa? Anyone in the state can go to the Iowa by Trail website. Just input your ZIP code, and the app will serve you a list of the trails nearest you, along with the amenities and features that you are likely to encounter on each of the trails.
“The trails are calling, and I must go!”
What are you waiting for? Iowa’s paved multi-use trails are currently bursting with fall colors, and they don’t require a gym membership or any fancy equipment. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and an adventurous spirit. Your heart, your legs — and your scale! — will thank you.
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